Should You Take the June or October LSAT?

The pros and cons of either test date depend entirely on you.

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As the head of a LSAT prep firm who has personally prepared thousands of students for the exam over the last decade, I have heard so many theories (all of them false) about why the June or October LSAT is more difficult. From a testing perspective, the only significant difference between the June and October LSAT exams is when each exam is administered: Monday afternoon for the June exam versus Saturday morning for the October test.

Whether you choose to take the June or October test has nothing to do with the content of each exam, which will be very similar. Instead, this choice must be based on where you are in your preparation. The following are a few major factors that you should carefully consider in deciding whether the June or October LSAT is right for you:

1. Preparation time: Nearly all test takers need between three and nine months to successfully prepare for the LSAT, which is much more challenging than the SAT. Some of my clients taking the June exam started preparing last fall and some just last month, but they have all started by now.

[Use these seven tips for LSAT success.]

At this point, with only a little more than two months until the June LSAT, there is not enough time to start studying and ensure that you will be able to practice enough to reach your full potential on this all important exam. If you have not started preparing yet, you should plan to take the October exam.

If you have already started preparing and are planning to take the June LSAT, you need to make the test your absolute top priority over the next couple of months. Try to take at least two—and preferably three—practice tests a week from now until the June exam.

Also, if you are struggling to reach your goal score, consider getting help from experienced professionals who have a demonstrated track record of improving students' scores. (Be sure to ask about instructors' minimum scores and teaching experience, as well as the average score increase among clients.)

2. Application deadlines: If you are applying this fall (to start law school in 2013), taking the June test is ideal so you can spend the rest of the summer and early fall concentrating on your applications. If you are applying this fall but will not be ready to take the June test, however, this will not negatively affect your applications in any way.

Contrary to some inaccurate myths out there on the message boards, taking the October LSAT in no way puts you at an admissions disadvantage. It just means you will need to split your time over the next six months between preparing for the LSAT and writing your applications, since you will ideally want to submit your applications soon after taking the October exam.

[Find out how to strengthen your law school application.]

3. Your practice results: If you are currently signed up for, or will be signing up for, the June LSAT, you have until May 18 to withdraw or change your test date. By the middle of May, you should be regularly scoring at or very close to your ideal score on real practice tests. If that is not the case, you should seriously consider pushing off until the October exam.

Since taking the October exam will not affect your chances of admissions, waiting until you are fully prepared for the test is your best option. Do not take the June exam as a "trial run" with the idea of retaking in October, because about 25 percent of law schools still average your scores if you take the test multiple times.

If you take the June test and you are unhappy with your score, you always have the option to keep studying and retake in October. But keep in mind that you can only take the LSAT three times in any two year period, and if you cancel your score, it still counts as one of your three chances. Plan accordingly.

[Consider ways to handle low LSAT scores.]

Are you having trouble deciding which test is right for you? Let me know in the comments, E-mail me at shawn.oconnor@stratusprep.com, or contact me via Twitter at @StratusPrep. And check back next Monday to read what the dean of a top law school says is the most common reason that applicants are rejected.